What are the British really like?

We bust some myths about the people you’ve come to live among

Emma Bartley
Monday 18 August 2008 16:14

You may arrive for your studies in the UK thinking you know all about British people. But do the stereotypes hold true? We decided to grab a cup of tea and a crumpet and ponder the quirks of life on these fair shores, dispelling the myths once and for all. Read on to find out the Which Way UK verdict…

Brits drink tea all the time

When the Sons of Liberty tipped 45 tons of tea into the sea during their Boston Tea Party, Britain was mortified. Not because of the lost tax but because, well, it was such a waste. We consume a whopping 2.3kg of tea per person each year.Most native Britons would hook themselves up to an IV drip of the stuff if they could. That doesn’t mean you’ll struggle if you don’t like it, though: global coffee chains and fruit/herbal/green teas are available everywhere.
Verdict: True

Brits will form a queue in any situation

If standing in line was an Olympic sport, Great Britain would take gold, silver and bronze. We queue politely at bus stops and airports, in shops, and even at bars. No, we’re not standing in line at the bar, but we all know in which order we arrived, and woe betide any bar staff who try to serve customers in the wrong order. If any readers think that’s a bit weird, form an orderly queue and Which Way UK will deal with your complaints individually…
Verdict: True

Brits think nine pints of lager is a quiet night

Thash not true… we like a few drinksh… but we’re not alwaysh drunk… OK, Britons do like a drink: on average, we consume around 14 units of alcohol each per week. Many students are capable of consuming 14 units of alcohol on a night out. However, if you’ve made the lifestyle choice not to drink, you’ll find a vast range of restaurants, sporting events and cultural goings-on that don’t oblige you to drink. Hic.
Verdict: False

Brits talk about the weather all the time

If you live in Morocco, it doesn’t make much sense to indulge in chit-chat about the weather: “Isn’t it sunny?” “Yes, just like yesterday.” But we in Britain are not the most socially confident people, and with around 120 days of rainfall and over 1,300 hours of sunshine a year, our weather offers us rich and varied opportunities to make safe talk with strangers.
Verdict: False

Brits are football hooligans

Brits are fond of remembering that they invented the beautiful game. Thus we know that in medieval soccer, matches were usually held to settle some kind of local feud. With its seemingly bizarre tribal loyalties, the modern British game could be said to express similar primal needs. If you’re in a town that has a team, you’ll find that fans are visible and vocal. But, while a tiny minority gets very drunk, or has fights with other fans, the sport more usually unifies, bringing strangers together in victory or (more often) defeat. The Social Issues Research Centre suggests that English fans are most commonly associated with violence because of the “unlimited column inches” our newspapers devote to it. To those publications, we say: “Oo are ya? Oo are ya? Oo are ya?”
Verdict: False

Brits have bad teeth

OK, compared to Californians, we have bad teeth, but there’s nothing wrong with UK dentists. You can trust them. Hey – why are you looking away when we smile? Oh, don’t cry…
Verdict: False

Brits are reserved

Britons, it is generally agreed, are reserved. In foreign parts this tends to translate as “snooty”. But in fact we’re just quite shy, almost apologetic for our presence. In his Notes From a Small Island, Bill Bryson finds that many of our sentences begin “Sorry, but…” Thus, in a city, only beggars, lunatics and tourists speak to other members of the public; in London, you’ll be lucky to make eye contact. If you want to get a Brit to open up, wait until you know us a little. Or talk about the weather.
Verdict: True

Brits eat bland food

People say that the Brits cannot cook, but they are wrong: we have perfected the art of stodge. From our doughy breakfast of crumpets and Marmite (“We couldn’t even imagine how varied are the British toasts,” says one unintentionally hilarious Polish website) to our fatty fish-and-chip supper, we revel in bland, heavy foods. Outsiders are usually less keen, but our history of invading more interesting countries means our restaurants are cosmopolitan. You’ll easily find a French bistro, Lebanese souk or Japanese sushi bar. Indeed, chicken tikka masala was once voted the nation’s favourite dish.
Verdict: False

Brits are hilarious

It’s hard to say whether Britons are especially amusing, but enough foreigners have complimented us on our successful comedy franchises (Monty Python, The Office) that we certainly think we are – hence the number of silly jokes in this piece. It may seem stupid at first, but those visitors who start to understand our ironic sense of humour say it’s one of their favourite things about the UK. Honestly.
Verdict: True

Brits are evil

Every film or television villain, from Darth Vader to Stewie, the baby in Family Guy, has a cut-glass English accent. It is Hollywood shorthand for evil. But despite what the movies tell you, many British people do have souls and some of them will even be nice to you.
Verdict: False

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